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Confrontation between Indian police and protesters over nationality law

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS)

Indian police chased protesters Sunday to prevent them from accessing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s car as protests entered across the country against its second month nationality law.

Tens of thousands participated in overnight protests in the eastern city of Calcutta to condemn Modi’s visit over the weekend to the capital of West Bengal state, whose rulers are fiercely opposed to the law.

Police said they were forced to move after demonstrators tried to break into barricades to stop the Moody car outside a stadium where he made a speech defending again the citizenship law and insisting that the protesters were “misleading.”

Almost two thousand demonstrators gathered outside the stadium chanting “Moody Fascist back where I came from” before the confrontation with the police. A police official said more than 100 protesters were detained.

During Modi’s visit, the protesters burned effigies of him and waved black flags, which were considered an insulting gesture in Indian society.

“The government cannot suppress our voice. We are not afraid. We are determined to fight for our rights. We will continue our protests until Moody leaves our city,” said Samet Nandy, participating in the protests.

West Bengal has become a political battleground between Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and Mamaata Banerjee, who leads the state “Trinamul Conference” that governs the state.

Banerjee was among the state leaders who said they would not implement an amendment to the Nationality Law that excludes Muslims from a list of minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who are permitted to obtain Indian citizenship.

Opponents of the law say the government put the country on a religious test in the secular country.

Many of India’s 200 million Muslims fear the law will be a prelude to a national census of citizens who may be left stateless in a country of 1.3 billion people. Many poor Indians do not have documents to prove their nationality.

Moody assured his supporters that “the law does not aim to strip nationalities but rather to grant nationalities.”

He accused his political opponents of “misleading” and “inciting” people against the government.

The demonstrations are rocking the country, which condemns most of the population of Hinduism, since parliament passed the law last month.

Twenty-seven people, mostly Muslims, have been killed, and police have been accused of using excessive force in many states.

Interior Minister Amit Shah, the second man in the government, gathered in Jabalpur Sunday to mobilize support for the law, and hundreds of supporters participated in a rally in New Delhi.

But in a new sign of discontent with the law, a Bangladeshi official canceled a third visit to New Delhi to protest the law.

The deputy foreign minister of Bangladesh, Shahriar Alam, was scheduled to participate in a diplomatic seminar in the Indian capital last week.

In December, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and Minister of the Interior Asad Zaman Khan canceled two separate visits to India.

The United Nations and the Commission for Religious Freedom in the US government also expressed their concern.

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